Pigital Dedagogy

Strange title I know!  I recently requested a colleague of mine to do a presentation on “Digital pedagogy” – in response I received a humorous response, renaming DP to “Pigital Dedagogy” – reading between the lines – is there such a thing as digital pedagogy and are we really just confusing our teachers by using this name. Did we ever say “blackboard pedagogy” yet there were many known and unknown strategies for successfully using a blackboard to maximize learning! Are we being more kind to our colleagues by sticking with “pedagogy” in a digital space / tool etc.

I’ve recently read two blog posts that I found very thought provoking, in a positive way and also enlightening as we strive to find the eutopia of influencing our colleagues with embracing the digital revolution into the classroom. Shanetechteach writes about “transformative learning” and what that really means while JPerk writes about “digital pedagogy in online environments” – both highlighting the potential for effective learning in a digital age.

Back into the zone I now live – planning a virtual world for p-7 student learning – I’ve just read through Wonkas amazing journals as he builds the virtual world for our new project. So what exactly will pedagogy look like in a virtual world – a world that has distinct features of being immersive and collaborative. Is it possible for students to negotiate their own learning and select pathways based on their self-reflections? And I guess – should learning environments allow that?  This environment does have the ability to do that (under teacher instruction) and to be student directed but I daresay that teachers could still find a way to make it teacher directed and linear in nature.  And can we say the same about any learning environment. As the classroom teachers are not responsible for the design of the world, does that then leave us with more opportunity to explore this avenue. The QAHS Q2 Creativity World trial in 2009 achieved exactly that – student driven, student owned, creativity, higher order thinking, collaborative learning processes. 

Then I wonder, will students also choose to take this pathway for learning? Or will they be looking for their familiar structures, guidance, rules and boundaries that they are so familiar with in a learning context.

So we talk about the digital age – and yes we acknowledge that our students are already there (most of) – but I think we need to understand that they are not there (majority of) for academic learning purposes and our role as teachers is still vital in supporting their learning in these environments. We just need to rethink perhaps the level of instruction and moreso the type of instruction that is needed.

So bring on pigital dedagogy – let’s go back to our familiar pedagogical frameworks and reimagine – rethink – redesign the learning process for students in our contexts – building on what we already know while moving forward.

And this is what I love about technology – the ability for me, as a learner, to choose not to learn what I have to learn this morning (otherwise known as procrastination) – but to select a different pathway and journey based on MY needs and wants!

Instructional Design in a Virtual World

Instructional Design in a Virtual World

There seems to be quite a bit of research and documentation around learning in virtual worlds for higher education.    Designing a virtual world for successful learning outcomes for p-7 students is my current focus and I’m interested to investigate the similarities, as well as differences.

Karl Kapp http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/2009/11/save-yourself-time-and-money-before.html  talks about conducting a design analysis before implementing a Virtual World.  Interesting points:

  • Determine the type of content to be learnt – is it concepts / skills / processes.  Identify the type of knowledge and this will assist with the most appropriate instruction.   Consider whether the task needs to be group or individual focus.
  • What type of environment – should it be realistic, therefore replicating real life, or should it be something almost surreal.  This is an interesting concept in terms of transforming learnings to other contexts.
  • Technical considerations – what are the potential technical issues eg. Firewall, access etc. Then from this I guess it’s thinking about being pro-active  – self help options, just in time learning etc.  The idea of using in-world mentors may aide this process, as well as the provision of a catalogue of objects.. etc.
  • Learners needs – Karl talks about the most well thought out virtual learning designs do not necessarily have successful outcomes.  Learners need to feel comfortable and understand how / what/ where etc.  He suggests having somebody greet them in the vworld..

Some considerations of my own:

  • Learning styles – catering to the visual / auditory / kinaesthetic learners – I think that young learners enjoy multi-media and this is achievable within the world.
  • Working with others – setting expectations and providing a supportive environment where learners will strive for effective collaboration with others – I wonder whether the anonymity of the avatar will aide in this process?  Peter suggests the provision of a social space upon entering the world – perhaps this will be the area where we need to help students learn how to work together.

More thought also needs to go towards the transition between the physical classroom (face to face) and the online environment.  Obviously students will know those from their own school but then across schools will only be within the virtual world.  Are all expectations to be set within the virtual world, or should it be in the physical classroom as well.

I’ve just finished reading Karl Kapp’s chapter 1 of 3d in learning “Exploring the possibilities” and have ordered the book.  I think it will be an interesting read with lots of insight into vworlds.  I like his very clear explanation of web 1.0, 2.0 etc. web 1.0 was focused on connecting “to” the web;  Web 2.0 is focused on connecting “through” the web and web 3.0 focuses on connecting “within” the web – which is where virtual worlds are situated.  Web 3.0 proposes “co-creating” compared to web 2.0 where people shared, participated and collaborated.  He refers to web 3.0 as the immersive internet.    I wonder whether those who have not successfully engaged in web 2.0 will find it difficult to operate in web3.0 environments?

I like the idea of a framework to guide the development of online learning environments and think that this is something we’ve perhaps wanted for quite a while – well before virtual worlds entered the learning paradigm.    Some might say that it is just about pedagogy and yep I agree, however I think that there are a lot of external factors in the online world that we as teachers don’t control and therefore need the appropriate pedagogy to deliver and excel within those environments.

Challenge: Designing a Virtual World for P-7 Student Learning

Challenge:  Designing a Virtual World for P-7 Student Learning

My new challenge is very very exciting – designing a concept for a Virtual World for P-7 students.    The bigger challenge is that the students aren’t mine, the project involves designing a project for a number of small schools to utilize.  Considerations:

  • Curriculum Focus
  • Innovative
  • Worthwhile – efficiency and productivity
  • Empowering –v- engaging
  • Supporting pedagogy

Curriculum Focus:  If teachers are to opt to participate in this project, they need it to incorporate their curriculum objectives.  Same old same old – teachers are very busy,  and unless they see the alignment and usefulness for their mandatory objectives, they will be reluctant.

Innovative:  I struggle a little with this.  Does it need to be something ‘out of this world’ (like the pun!) or is it just plain simple good teaching and learning… or does it need to show something that hasn’t been possible before ie. New ways of doing new things

Worthwhile – efficiency and productivity:  So, from a teacher perspective, unless it is going to achieve something different than what I can do in my class, why should I?  So, targeting a concept(s) that could perhaps be done more efficiently or produce better outcomes needs to be considered.

Empowering –v- engaging:  I picked this up from Stephen Downes and love it!  Digital technologies aren’t for simple engagement but rather should empower the learner, and they have that possibility so why wouldn’t we aim for empowering our students.  If the focus is ‘science’ based and possibly around the “year of sustainability’ what a wonderful opportunity to empower students to inquire, analyse and transform their understandings into creating possible solutions for many of the world’s problems or issues.

Supporting pedagogy:   One of the key messages presented by Stephanie Gerald and David M. Antonacci was the necessity to plan for effective learning… just as we do in any learning environment.   “We suggest an alternative approach to developing virtual world learning spaces. Instead of anticipating possible educational needs and trying to develop flexible learning spaces for those possible needs, virtual world learning spaces can be developed for very specific instructional needs.”  Mmm… food for thought – so if we want collaboration and develop a collaborative space, then the learning space needs to allow for that.  But I’m also wary that we want students to direct and own their own learning and to create and imagine.  This is where too much ‘structure’ can inhibit this.

Presented at the 2009 Educause Conference by Susan Stalewski and Tanya Joosten “Best Practices for Using Second Life for Teaching and Learning) – key messages about the design of a virtual learning environment included:

  •  Managing student expectations
  • Creating collaborative activities
  • Planning for meaningful activities which require richness and networks  eg. Showcase, fieldwork, experiential
  • Finding a support network (help), and
  • Documenting the work (so I guess collect evidence).

 Inquiring learning reflects many of the 21st century learner elements that I believe need to be incorporated within the Virtual World. Opportunities for students to:

  • develop deep understandings of the concepts, through research, experimentation and critical and creative thinking processes
  • make decisions, solve problems and take action
  • express and share their ideas, observations and perspectives with others
  • build new knowledge and understanding
  • monitor their own progress and develop an ownership of their learning
  • work independently and cooperatively in groups
  • reflect on their learning, decisions and thinking processes.

Transformative learning ideas and current research suggest that an inquiry approach also needs to incorporate higher order thinking opportunities so that students have the capacity to shift focus beyond basic knowledge acquisition to complex construction of knowledge.

As mentioned above also, collaborative learning would have to be a major focus within the world.  Collaboration with others replicates real world applications.   It also supports active learning processes where students:

  • can exchange ideas and build on the ideas of others
  • consider varying perspectives
  • develop leadership skills
  • engage in deep thinking through reflection and seeking consensus
  • communication, teamwork, relationship skills
  • constructive peer and self-evaluation within a supportive environment

 So rather than the student being a receiver, they become a constructor and contributor.

 In summing up, some key elements of the activity in the virtual world, should incorporate:

  • Collaboration
  • Higher order thinking
  •  Inquiry approach
  • Curriculum focus
  • Real life application
  • Flexibility to be student directed yet purposeful in having some specific instructional learning opportunities  
  • Something I haven’t spoke about is probably the concept of ‘independence’ – so the ability to operate successfully in the world, with or without instruction – or perhaps a range of both.

 Enough ideas for now.. I’m sure that I will continue to add to this and welcome any comments my readers might have J

Leading Leaders

Well, another fantastic group of Digital Leaders joined the South Coast group of digital pedagogy leaders.  We now have around 80 digital leaders across approximately 45 schools – which is approx. one third of our region (until the region becomes larger that is).

Today lhods and I facilitated the two day foundation practicum for our leaders.   Our group were a lot smaller than previous groups – 12 in total – and primarily from secondary schools.  As usual, lhods and I were very well organized and prepared for the 2 days, but ended up really going off in many different tangents – in a very positive way.  As I sit here tonight reflecting on this, mmmm.. I think – there’s no way I could have done that 2 years ago – it’s nice to actually feel confident and comfortable enough to let the group drive the program – supporting one of our priorities “personalizing learning”!  A few highlights:

  • First Word – Last Word:  I mentioned this in my last blog.  Can I say that it was very successful, and even though teachers were a little skeptical at first, they really enjoyed the activity.  We started with a selection of readings about different pd programs that have been successful across the world, with a focus on elearning.  The activity starts with them reading silently, highlighting key elements of the reading that resonate with them.  They then went into small groups (4 or 5).  The 1st person read out one of their key elements – just read it as it was straight from the reading, without explaining their thinking or justification.  The 2nd, 3rd and 4th members are invited to make a comment about that 1st person’s key element – eg. That makes me think of a time…. I wonder if….  (we gave them some sentence starters if they needed them).  Then the conversation goes back to the original speaker who is able to sum up the thinking of others, and to also present their own thinking.  The process repeats, until everyone has contributed one of their key elements.  What was successful:  focused dialogue, everybody had a voice, active listening  (This strategy originates from Joan Dalton/David Anderson Art of Facilitation see http://www.plot.pd.com/)
  • Webconferences:  day 2, which is usually the more relaxed day turned out to be the most mind engaging day.  We had a webconference with ak – the senior project officer for the newly released student P-10 ICT Expectations.  This provided a stimulus for some great discussions around how we support our colleagues with digital pedagogy….Interestingly, some people still perceive this document as an extra to our curriculum – far from its intent – they provide our teachers with a framework for ways of working with digital technologies – within the relevant curriculum context (from a student perspective).   Later in the day, we were fortunate to also join with shaneteachtech in a webconference on “Leading Change in a School” – an opportunity presented via twitter this morning where @shaneteachtech opened his webconference invitation to others.   Shaneteachtech not only shared some great teaching practices but also shared his role and intentions for 2010 as a digital leader in his school.  How fortunate are we to have people who are so willing to share what they do, try and test new ways of working – we need these people in our system.  In between these two sessions, we had Reverest from QAHS share her story – her story about pedagogy and how digital technologies have enhanced teaching and learning for her context.  So, 3 amazing perspectives for the digital leaders to listen to and ask questions– and all based on 1st hand experiences.

I felt a little challenged during the practicum because ‘my mantra’ is to utilize the ‘collective wisdom’ of the group and draw on co-construction of knowledge and understandings – through the members of the group.  However, I found that the group were quite comfortable and seeked the opportunities where they could listen to the stories of others and take on board information and new connections.    It will be interesting to see what the practicum evaluation tells.  One particular activity that I think didn’t work so well was one where we looked at the ‘attributes’ of today’s learner… a change from our usual “create an artefact of a 21st century learner’.  I saw something today that showed the attributes of ‘successful learners’ and thought mmm.. that would have been a better approach – brainstorm what the attributes are of a ‘successful’ learner and then compare to our ‘learners’ (within contexts) – then how do we improve and move forward…  Next time!

As a facilitator, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that no group has been the same, and that every experience is different.    Our challenge (Lissa and I) still remains – how do we have a continuing community of practice with our group.  They return to their schools, back to their very busy days, and the community struggles to continue.  Many keep in touch with myself or Lissa – but how do we support them to support each other?  Chatting with Lissa – her thoughts are that our role has been to empower or enable these leaders to lead….  acknowledging who they are, and celebrating the amazing dedication and commitment they have to supporting their schools vision for learning.  So, is it time to handhold just a little more with the group, and perhaps create some further opportunities through webconferencing, café style discussions etc?  or is an ‘action research’ component required…. Need to think a little more on this one.

Over and out for today 🙂

Transforming Teacher Pedagogy

As I’m planning the two day foundation practicum for our third cohort of Digital Pedagogy Leaders, I find myself reflecting and revisiting prior learning.. to aim for even better and higher results.  Why do I do this to myself…mmmm… why don’t I use what I’ve done before…. well because the group are different and it’s about catering to the needs, interests and experience of the group.  I also take on board feedback given by previous groups and appreciate their professional input into our regional community of practice.

“The Art of Facilitation” (Joan Dalton/David Anderson) once again is on the top of my hit list… I revisit www.plotpd.com for variations on facilitation strategies.

I have developed my own personal mantra for the facilitation of this particular group:

  • Reflect on what you know
  • Share your understandings
  • Develop new understandings
  • Apply your understandings
  • Reflect within your own context

This is for OUR benefit as well as the community.  I feel it is important that we are explicit in everything we do.  The community practicum is not about US the facilitators – but about the Community of Practice we are trying to develop.    I believe that professional learning needs to be more aligned with individual contexts and prior experiences (constructivist approach).   Everyone is on a different journey… and these journeys need to be honoured and aided.  I believe that the knowledge exists within the network (connectivism) and that our role is vital in helping our members to make relevant connections – the “collective wisdom” of the group is critical too!  If these are our regional leaders, then it is about allowing them to take on this responsibility within a connected community where they feel supported and guided.

I’m trying a couple of new strategies this time… as I’m still not entirely happy the with the “personalising professional learning” session that I lead.  So will try:

* First Word – Last Word strategy with a case study reading on a professional learning approach used to enhance digital technologies…  I saw @joram10 facilitate this really well so feel like I can have a go;

* Top Ten – I’m altering my ‘contribution chart’ strategy to something called a “Top Ten” bit like the Top Ten caravan parks in New Zealand!  I want them to not just brainstorm a wide list, but to really think about the most important from that list.

* will not use the online community as much as I’d like… however I haven’t really experienced success with using it in a f2f practicum… so it will become a reference point but not critical to the 2 days.

* connecting the new group with the other 2 groups – so we maintain regional community.. will try different appraoch here this time too.  Will still use a webconference but rather than just for the sake of ‘connecting with others’ will use the P-10 ICT Expectations (Thanks AKinnane) as the focus of the webconference, but bringing  together our f2f group with the other members of the community also linking in.

* Will also look more deeply at models for the SCPD Framework – this seems to be a recurring request..

and I’m rather proud of myself… being the ‘controlling organised’ temperament type who usually needs a ‘set agenda’ have allowed for a totally flexible session on day 2 that will depend on the flow of the group, and what their ‘wants and needs’ are – so totally unplanned and will be going with the flow! (can’t say I won’t be nervous about this though).

Am also thinking I should print myself some palm cards – thanks to David Anderson – and really focus on the ‘language that I use’ during the two days, eg.





See the difference!  Amazing when you focus on the language that you use…so that it is inclusive, invitational, gives power & choice to the group, shared responsibility, valuing of diversity – all what a dynamic functioning community of practice should exhibit!

Temperament Types & Professional Learning

Continuing my quest for the best way ever to influence and support teachers with using digital technologies effectively….temperament types…  something not exactly new… but a recent presentation by M Cridland has me thinking again..

He talked about psychological type (ie. MBTI: ESTJ, EFTJ etc. etc.) but extended the topic to the temperament type (SJ etc.) and had appropriate labels – Kangaroos (SP), Dolphins(NF), Eagles(NT), Wombats(SJ).  What he addressed were the core needs, values, talents and behaviours of these temperament types and how this affects our role as a ‘leader’ of others..but most importantly it really pinpointed how people are different in many ways and their outward behaviours are not what they always appear to be (at least from our own perspective).

As leaders or coaches or facilitators of professional learning of others… this has a major impact on what we do or what we should be doing.  I’m not saying that we all need degrees in analysing people however I think that an awareness of temperament types does allow us to step back and put on a different set of lenses and realise that not everybody views the world as we do (thank God for that I say).

Take for example the SP (Kangaroo) temperament type – core needs are the freedom to act on impulses and the ability to make an impact – they value excitement, adventure, action, variety;  typical behaviours would include risk taking, spontaneity and being restless!  Is this the typical temperament of a teacher?  Is this the typical temperament of an ‘early adopter’ of digital technologies? 

Then consider the SJ (Wombat) type – core needs are membership and belonging, responsibility and duty – they value rules, security and stability;  typical behaviours would include structured approaches, being past orientated, responsible, careful…..  does this sound like an ‘early adopter’?

So if you consider just these two different types of people – the adoption of technologies would be viewed quite differently by these people.  The SP would most likely be the one who you could show the ‘tool’ they’d experiment and be the model learner with their students – not necessarily focused on the outcome, but at least willing to explore.  Then take the SJ – very cautious, would really need to understand the technology from a curriculum perspective because that’s the rules….and they like to be ‘responsible’ and ‘structured’.

So in working with our colleagues, what can we do to support the individual core needs, values, talents and behaviours of these people?

  • Be aware
  • Be open
  • Be transparent
  • Be understanding
  • Be objective
  • Be varied
  • Be flexible
  • Know that not everybody is like we are
  • Within your group, will be a range of types
  • Build trusting relationships between colleagues so that they feel comfortable with new discoveries

Now I’m starting to revisit the work of Michael Fullan – effective change needs components of:

  • Understanding Change
  • Relationship Building
  • Knowledge development
  • Moral Purpose
  • Coherence Making

Aspects of the Fullan Framework could certainly support a range of temperament types.

Just another consideration for personalizing professional learning for staff and really tapping into their individual needs – not just their individual needs in terms of ‘technical’ ‘pedagogical’ skill but their whole being.

Confidence -v- Competence

Further to “What’s my point” – I had the fortunate experience of once again, listening to the work of Sarah Prestridge (Griffith University, Mt Gravatt) at the QSITE2009 Conference.  She conducts research projects on ICT Teacher Professional Development – action learning style!  In fact, much of her work has influenced our Digital Pedagogy Leaders Project in the South Coast.

Something she raised yesterday… that I’ve heard before..but resonated with me even more deeply.  Teacher competence with digital technologies –v- Teacher confidence with digital technologies.  Through her experience, she has observed that teacher confidence with technologies need to be a priority over their competence.  This really highlights that it isn’t about the skills of using the tools – and I know that people see this as a ‘sore point’ but I think I need to highlight that I’m not saying teachers don’t need skill development – but I’m saying that this isn’t the initial priority – a successful experience with digital technologies will lead to teacher confidence.  Teacher confidence will then enable them to see further ways of using technologies and to seek out skill development when required.  Let’s face it – in a connected world – there really isn’t any skill that can’t be learnt independently – just google it and see what’s available – not only a tutorial, but also reflections of educators all over the world who have tried and tested the tools and are willing to collaborate if requested.

So, teacher confidence… let’s consider.. most would agree – that success builds success..  So if we start at what teachers ‘succeed with’ first.. and that would most likely be their strategies and understanding of curriculum and of their learners…then support them with an experience using digital technologies to further enhance what they already do well – will this inspire them to see the value in digital technologies?  Or would it be a one off experience?

When I reflect on my own teaching experience I remember the first time I tried to use ict in my class. I had been to a conference in Brisbane, which was quite an achievement when teaching in Boyne Island where very little pd was available and we certainly didn’t have the benefits of online pd then.  At this conference we were shown a device that allowed you to connect your laptop to the tv so that you could display / enlarge your laptop screen for your class (I was part of the Connecting Teachers laptop trial in the 90’s)  I was so excited and remember coming back to my principal raving about this $600 device that would allow this.   He welcomed and supported my enthusiasm and found money in the budget to purchase this piece of equipment.  Now I had absolutely no idea how to connect or make it work – I just saw the possibilities of using it in a classroom (seems pretty lame compared to technologies now – projectors were available but my boss wasn’t willing to pay the $10,000 price).  Anyway, I guess what it gave me was a bit of confidence in using technologies.  Confidence to try the possibilities in the classroom first and then competence to make it work and then confidence in the benefits of using technologies.   For me, this was the beginning of a very exciting learning journey.   So my message to teachers is that you don’t have to be a technical guru to see or implement pedagogy that leverages technologies.  But you do need to take a little risk here and there, have a go, make some errors, and discover new and exciting ways of teaching!  By the way, I would really love to hear your first experience using technology in the classroom!

And that’s what I really enjoy about conferences – witnessing firsthand the stories of educators who have embarked on a new professional journey using digital technologies – the enthusiasm, the inspiration and the amazing new ways teachers find to improve learning outcomes for their students.  Thanks QSITE09


My recent attendance at the Smart Classrooms eLearning Innovation Expo has sparked and inspired my reflections…  and as a result.. I think I’ve just about written a book…  long reading but the process for me was very worthwhile!

The inclusion of digital technologies as part of a child’s education is welcomed by some, but resisted by many.  Early adopters continue to climb the somewhat new wave of learning with digital technologies, while many just don’t understand how and why.  Leaders struggle with how they can have their colleagues join them on the journey, or perhaps even start the journey.  As leaders, our role is imperative – but are we taking the right approach? 

While a range of frameworks across the world have been developed to show and support teachers with using digital technologies, are they sending the right message or is the message just not understood?

On a day to day basis I engage with a range of educators either trying to lead the digital technologies agenda or trying to join (or perhaps resist) the journey.    After attending a recent conference, I reflected… why is it that many of our teachers struggle with the integration of digital technologies?  And what does this mean to us, as leaders in our profession?

Firstly, I need to highlight that I do believe there is a place for early adopters in our system and innovation and creativity is a must!   .  But if we want to influence the majority of our profession – is it innovation that will influence the majority or is it something else?

Digital technologies have long been recognized as an essential 21st century learning tool.  Yet, not everybody welcomes digital technologies into their repertoire of teaching and learning strategies.

It is not unusual to hear a teacher comment “I’m too busy…  I have a heavy curriculum that I need to cover”.   Or “I don’t have time to learn how to use the technologies”.  Sound familiar?  And I’m sure many of us hear other comments too.

I don’t think that we need to debate whether digital technologies have a place in our classrooms, however we need to have an understanding of our learners – and assist our peers in reaching their own understandings.  What has changed?

Students are considered to be ‘different’ now than in previous education eras – some will agree, others will disagree.  But we can probably agree that today’s students are world-wise, have a range of skillsets that didn’t exist 20 years ago, and come from a larger range of cultures (global) and socio-economic situations.  Some consider today’s learner to be more disengaged in school, and generally behavior issues are seen as the fault.  Yet our students have a quench for learning beyond the classroom, on their terms.    Stephen Heppell (2009) refers to the “age of learning” – an exciting time for us and our students.

Teachers (also learners) often feel overwhelmed and overworked – doing the absolute best they can within their own contexts.  We have what we regard as “early adopters” – those who are willing to take a risk, try new things and be innovative!  They lead the way and are often held in high esteem for their incredible efforts.  Our system provides us with an incredibly busy curriculum – with teachers feeling a professional and moral obligation to ensure that students learn the content and can demonstrate what they know (just as they’ve always done).

And just how have the tools available to us as educators changed… the blackboard is almost extinct…  We still have our concrete materials, learning centres and so on… and now we also have digital technologies.  We really have just about any tool we want, at our fingertips – but how do we support our colleagues in seeing the value of these tools?

Mark Treadwell (2009: Keynote Presenter ) at the Smart Classrooms Innovation Expo spoke about the “learning paradigm of the book” and the “learning paradigm of the internet” – suggesting that we have moved into a new educational age.  He emphasised that teachers are doing the absolute best they can – within the “learning paradigm of the book”.  However, if we are to accept the “internet paradigm” as our current learning paradigm then perhaps what we’ve always done, just doesn’t work any longer for the students in our classrooms.  A somewhat different approach to education is required  – knowledge is no longer static and it doesn’t just sit within our books or our teachers.   Just as, when book were introduced to society, our approaches to learning had to change.  Students have access to knowledge from just about any expert or source they choose.  But what they do what that knowledge… is where the role of the teacher is still very very important.

Yes our students are generally technology savvy… but are they savvy in learning?  Sure they might know how to use a mobile phone or an iPod touch… but what do they use it for?  Some assumptions about using digital technologies:

They’re sexy and savvy! (Don’t get me wrong – I love sexy and savvy… but will it be the right way to influence our teachers)

That’s what the students live and breathe? (so… what they live and breathe changes faster than what we know)

It will give them what they need for the 21st century? (now just what is the 21st century going to look like and are those skills a static entity)

They’ll be more engaged and motivated to learn? (mmm.. but for how long… before the next thing comes along)

But is this our job as teachers!  You will note that I take on two perspectives here – because yes I am a classroom teacher who has experienced the digital wave and now work in a leadership role of supporting and influencing other teachers.

As educators, we need to stop, take a step back and put our roles into perspective.  Ultimately we’re all here for the same thing – to prepare our students for their life, now and tomorrow!  But what that life might be, is perhaps an unknown.    So what is it right now that we can support our students with?

If you knew that you could provide opportunities for learning to be efficient in your class and for your students so that you were meeting your curriculum requirements yet you were preparing ALL of your students for lifelong learning – would you consider it?

If you knew that you could focus in on the individual needs of your learners, so that you could provide learning opportunities that pinpointed exactly what that student needed, would you consider it?

 And let’s stop on that curriculum point!  We often hear “but we have to cover the curriculum’ comment,  but is it about coverage or is it about access?  Let’s face it – most educators are driven by a curriculum – we have system requirements – we are accountable – and for now, we have an obligation to teach the curriculum we are given.  BUT we are not told HOW the curriculum needs to be taught – we are trusted as professionals to choose strategies, to create learning opportunities, to organize our own learning environment so that all students can access the curriculum.

So let’s consider how digital technologies might benefit our students.   Consider the following scenarios:

A year 4 (8 year old) South East Islander boy is very disengaged, rarely participates let alone completes set learning tasks in the classroom.    The current learning task is to ‘explain how an object flies’ integrating both science and English subject areas.  Quite a challenging concept, but not unreachable for the students.  The child is not a prolific writer nor he is comfortable to orally present to his peers.   The teacher provides multiple opportunities for students in the class to demonstrate this concept.  One of those is to use “PhotoStory” – a multimedia program (free) that allows the user to add audio, visual and text media.  A pod of computers within the environment allows students to use the computers for their task, if this is their preferred option.  The use of an IWB in the classroom to model an example, demonstrates a) the task b) the genre c) the concept d)  provides some initial “skillset” on using Photostory (within context).    Some students catch on quickly, others don’t.  Some of these become ‘experts’ to tutor their peers.  The role of the teacher – to guide, to support, to provide opportunities for all students.  The boy completes this task, producing an oral explanation with visual text to represent his understanding of how an object flies.  In addition to the curriculum, he self manages, he gains confidence,  he achieves, he thinks, he applies, he explains, he communicates, he asks, he plans, he operates – and he succeeds!

Is it about curriculum coverage or is it about curriculum access?

The teacher provides a maths ‘challenge’ and asks students to think out loud how they would solve the problem, while gathered around the IWB in a small group activity.  An interactive touch calculator is available or they can choose from other tools – calculators, whiteboards, pen/paper. Most of the students have seen the use of interactive tools for maths so have an awareness of these too (modeled,  not explicitly taught).  One particular boy – the one who usually sits at the back, chats, yells out anything but a maths dialogue – starts to watch what others are doing.  A few kids use the board to demonstrate their thoughts out loud… but this boy comes up and starts to press the calculator buttons to explain the answer, he chooses the wrong button – the students help him out – risk taking, learning together,  scaffolding, thinking out loud, metalanguage ….. power to the learners!

Is about sexy&savvy or is it about learning?

Consider the child in your class who doesn’t typically contribute to group discussions – the one who might by shy, might lack confidence or might just not engage in thinking out loud discussions.  The use of an online discussion forum would provide 24/7 access to the child – so allowing them to engage with the discussion in their own comfort.  They are given the opportunity to read responses contributed by other students, reflect on their own thoughts and then contribute their response when they are ready.  I have seen this happen so often – not only does the child contribute a response (therefore participate in learning) but often choose (self direct) to add further contributions as they reflect on the responses of other students – leading to deep thinking and understandings.

Is it teacher centred or student centred?

Is this a record of student learning?

Learning objects – an interactive multimedia learning activity – fortunately available to all EQ staff via the Learning Place.  Honestly, have you seen the range that’s available.  Presented at a recent conference was a learning object that not only shows how a heart functions, but also enables the students to manipulate variables to see their effects.   They can revisit and revise the concept until they understand it.   Try doing this activity via other methods.  I’m not saying that everything real needs to be replaced by virtual experiences…but there are times when learning efficiency needs to be considered in our classrooms so that students can engage in higher order thinking challenges, rather than the lower end of the thinking spectrum.

Is it using ICT for the sake of using ICT or is it choosing the most appropriate tool for this context?

Is it denying access to the curriculum or enabling access through the visual /auditory / kinaesthetic needs of learners in your class?

Take the student who wants to gather data from an authentic audience…  Free tools such as surveymonkey.com provide students with opportunities to not only choose who their audience will be,  but a tool that collates the data and presents it in a number of ways for students to then focus on the interpretation and analysis of that data.

Is it make believe data collection & analysis or is it authentic and rich?

Jeff Souter (another presenter at the Innovation Expo) presented several ways of using technologies with students with special needs.  One particular example that I engaged with, is the use of a ‘text to speech’ add-in called wordtalk (free application) with Microsoft Word where students could type text, and then listen to what they have typed.  The add-in also has a spell check and rather than look at the list of available spelling, relying only on visual cues, students can click on the word and listen to it first.  My own 8 year old daughter has great difficulties in engaging with the traditional strategies used in the classroom…  this strategy would be absolutely amazing for her, providing her a different perspective on learning and giving her an opportunity to succeed with learning, based on her individual learning requirements.

Is this about catering to the different learning requirements of our students – providing them with multiple opportunities for them to access learning as well as be successful learners?

In my role as a mentor to teachers pursuing the Digital Pedagogy Licence, I am fortunate enough to read the personal reflections and journeys of teachers who are using digital technologies to enhance learning and teaching.  One particular teacher I often remember reading about….  Created a Virtual Classroom for his year 3 students… their unit was an environmental study, linked to a real life project within their school, where they would be improving their environmental area.  The virtual classroom was used in a number of ways – but one particular learning activity allowed students to ask questions to an environmentalist (somewhere in the world) and have authentic responses to their questions – using an asynchronous communication tool.  The environmentalist was not locked into a ‘one hour’ tell all visit to the class, but was able to support the learning of the students, when and if required – building on the prior knowledge and experience of the students and being there at the critical moment of self development.

Do you limit your students to the expertise they can access or do you tap into what’s at your fingertips?

Is learning always a planned event or can it be self directed and independent?

Do you just give students what they need to know at this moment OR do you provide opportunities for students to learn how to learn so that they can survive in an ever changing society?

So let’s start to think about the scenarios above…  I have purposefully described scenarios that I think highlight the ‘point’ of what I am trying to get to.. the means by which we should be using to influence our colleagues – the experts about learning.  They are not ‘high end’ or ‘innovative’ ways of using technologies but they are meaningful ways.  Is it that we need to first support our colleagues with an initial achievable success with learning, before they contemplate the “chasm” (Treadwell, 2009) presented by today’s learning landscape.

Firstly, the focus has to be about learning and teaching – who are the learners, what do they prefer and need, what do they already know, what strengths do they bring to their learning – and not just within the context of a class, but in the context of their individuality.   What is our curriculum intent?  What deep understandings would you like students to develop? And how will this prepare students for TODAY’s landscape?

Secondly, you do need some knowledge about the available tools – but it isn’t just a teachers own knowledge, it is the collective knowledge of the learners, and the learning networks that the teacher belongs to.  It’s the knowledge of how a tool can be leveraged to suit the teaching and learning focus, not the knowledge of how to use the tool.  Sometimes that means taking a risk – experimenting – reflecting – but aren’t these the exact skills we want our students to use in their learning?

Thirdly, it has to be a tool that supports efficient yet productive learning outcomes.  There is absolutely no gain in using digital technologies if learning outcomes could have been achieved through alternative richer contexts.   There has to be a point in using the technology.

Digital technologies afford us with the amazing opportunity of being able to focus in on individual learning needs, perhaps more now than ever before – while achieving the intent of the curriculum.

Let’s go back to basics and I don’t mean the 3r’s – let’s just get back to good learning and teaching – this is a teachers specialty, however the landscape has changed and our role as leaders and educators is to support teachers in the new landscape.  It isn’t about bells and whistles, it isn’t about how good we might be – because we’re as good as our students our so they must come first.  If our primary focus is good teaching and learning for today’s landscape, then how can digital technologies not be part of our extensive toolkit.  Why would we not use the best tools available to us, to help us find a way for every child to not only reach but excel in their learning.

As leaders in education, our role is to support our colleagues in focusing on ‘the point’ – good teaching and learning!  Let’s support them with a meaningful success in using digital technologies in their classrooms so that they develop their own understandings and a passion for this wonderful “learning age”.

Many will state “but we don’t have the skills” – or “how do we keep up with technology”.  Let’s face it – can anybody keep up with technology?  Is it our job to be the expert in all available technology or is it our job to be the expert in teaching and learning.  Can we not recognize when a student discovers, creates, analyses, explains, infers, evaluates.. and so on, regardless of the tools they use?  Yes, there is an aspect of technology skill that we might need, but it isn’t about us – it’s about our students.  Do we have the right to deny them the best learning opportunities available?

Heppell (2009) refers to the “age of learning” an “exciting time” for us today – and boy is he on the mark.  There has never been a more exciting time, except perhaps when the book was first introduced.    Did educators all over the world get excited then?  Did some resist the change?  Did some fear the change for it changed society?  Treadwell (2009) states “we are entering the most dramatic paradigm shift in learning ever” so let’s embrace it – and focus on the amazing opportunities we now have to develop learners for the 21st century.

 I have referred to several speakers from the Smart Classrooms eLearning Innovation Expo (2009), including:

Heppell, Stephen Professor (2009) – founder of Ultralab: : Keynote speaker at the Smart Classrooms eLearning Innovation Expo:  Finally it’s clear to everyone

Treadwell, Mark (2009)  Keynote Presenter at the Smart Classrooms elearning Innovation Expo http://mediasite.eq.edu.au/EQ/Viewer/?peid=ee936725-f66d-4cbd-bc27-f20cc50419ab and author of “Whatever!  The conceptual age and the evolution of school 2.0”.

Souter, Jeff (2009) – Learning Development Centre:  Presenter at the Smart Classrooms eLearning Innovation Expo: Universal design for learning: Using ICT to maximise the learning of all students

The Learning Age – what an exciting time!

Smart Classrooms eLearning Innovation Expo 2009

Well where do I start, after 2 absolutely AMAZING days of inspiration, ideas, challenges and narratives!  I thought last year’s event was pretty good but this just topped it.   Because I am a reflective person I just need to get some key messages down and out of my head because it’s all so very exciting~~

Key messages 4me  over the 2 days:

Learning EfficiencyD O’Hagan spoke about learning productivity and the purpose of the SC Agenda, to improve productivity of our system – in all forms, business wise as well as learning.  He spoke of ‘demand’ starting to exceed ‘available resources’ and while some are critical of this – I say WELL DONE!  Now it’s time to start thinking about how productively we are using these resources and whether there is anything WE can do to ease up the system while the team work through the issues. Mark Treadwell spoke so enthusiastically about learning being efficient – particularly in light of a heavy curriculum.  Key competencies are essential to our learners (these are in the NZ Teaching & Learning framework)  communication, collaboration, participating, thinking and managing self, – the challenge to educators is to create learning efficient opportunities with the curriculum so that we can spend time on the essential competencies that our students will need.    He showed amazing examples of “webfolios” where students are managing their own learning, setting goals, reflecting, talking about learning and so on.. not content focused but competency focused.  And how is this for a nationwide vision statement:  Confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners – now I might not back the NZ Rugby team, but I have to say, this is really impressive! – one more thing (for now) multimedia examples….  A multimedia example on the web could have learning potential equivalent to reading 50 pages in a book – that’s learning efficiency!

Power to the Learner – Gary Stager demonstrated this well.  Providing students the opportunity to learn how they want to learn – with some amazing examples.   Students creating! The ballerina robot – incredible story!  Interesting challenge for teachers:  giving power to the learners and then again, also accepting that we are learners too!  D Potter presented a snapshot of 3rd Generation Learning Place – WOW WOW WOW – talk about power to the learner.. over 20,000 resources so underutilized yet with new tools such as learning pathways, and teachers sharing their pathways, and use of social networking – all about teachers connecting and sharing with like minded teachers – bring it on!

Personalising Learning – This is something that I am really really engaging with and wonder why it’s taken us so long to get to the point of learning ‘personalisation’ – if it isn’t relevant to the learner, then why are we doing it!!  Mordiallic College in Victoria presented their whole school vision and implementation of personalizing learning – absolutely amazing – and heads up to those willing to live on the edge!  How fortunate are the students to co-exist in a learning environment with the teachers and peers.  They make their own choices, design their own learning pathways, engage in relevant learning!  Jeff Souter reinforced the concept of personalizing learning, showing how modifications to technologies (leveraging the technology) can benefit students by catering to their diverse learning styles and preferences.  O’Neill/Staines spoke about how our learning environment needs to be influenced by our pedagogy – simple concept yet has not had a lot of attention in education (well it does now). 

The Learning Age – What an Exciting Time – and how better than to end a conference with Stephen Heppell – much loved author of youtube videos we use in our pd so often to inspire and challenge thinking – you know, The Death of Education – the Dawn of Learning!  And, now let’s talk about “agile learning” – Stephen so passionately spoke about the age of learning and that it is such an exciting time for all learners – students, teachers, parents, community!~    Agile learning is about preparing our students for the unexpected – so changing our approach – let’s surprise our learners!  Well the #sc09expo certainly did that!~  And guess what?  The conference wasn’t about ICT – it was purely about learning – learning today and for the future!  Check out the twitter tag #sc09expo to read the amazing insights to the conference.

Is there more – yes!  But at the risk of a novel..  on a final note I think that there’s something very important that I will take from this conference – many of us at the conference have a passion and commitment to supporting our peers and colleagues – let’s not get bogged down with “why won’t they engage in the 21stc learning agenda” – let’s choose to inspire others through leading the way, through celebrating & showcasing student learning that is personalised and connected to the learner!  Let’s drive the agenda from the bottom up!  As Mark Treadwell showed, teachers are doing the best they can within the ‘book learning paradigm’ – so lets co-create the ‘internet learning paradigm’ . and this is “the age of Learning” let’s get excited (Stephen Heppell).

p.s. thank you to all presenters and organizers – I didn’t see everybody present but have no doubt that they were as equally inspiring

Personalising Learning…. for teachers….

The last two days, we have facilitated our next group of Digital pedagogy leaders – bring our community to 69 members as of today.  The program is popular, and being very well received in our region. (another story for another day) 

Our efforts to develop the concept of personalised learning are developing..  and I talk here from the perspective of personalising learning for teachers, but also this is so applicable to our students, probably more so!

Through my work in the region and prior experience as a facilitator, some observations to consider:

* we expect all teachers at a site to sit through the same pd at the same time, and take on board the concept presented ‘generally’;  often we have disengaged teachers;  often they don’t see the relevance to their context or perhaps they are already knowledgable in the area of pd, and probably don’t suit the session being offered.  Why do we do that?  and Why do we do this with our students?

So, in attempting to personalising the learning of our Digital Pedagogy Leaders, a few strategies that we’re developing… and starting to see some benefits from (and learning while we go):

* We request an EOI (Expression of Interest) from proposed Digital pedagogy leaders to confirm their commitment to the program BUT to also give me information about who they are, what their backgrounds are etc.  Very useful in terms of reading our audience and designing our program to suit their needs and build on their prior experience (ahh..  elements of constructivism);

* This time, I also created an activity “Find the community member who..” and included clues such as “An Aspiring Leader”  “A Productive Pedagogies Facilitator” – this activity assisted the community in making relevant connections, getting to know their colleagues, and valued the expertise of the group;

*Last group we ran a lot of ‘whole group sessions’ eg. on the PD Framework, on Productive Pedagogies… but as we identified through the EOI, many of our leaders either had knowledge in these areas, or were there with different priorities.  So we offered session choices – where they could choose from sessions based on their own needs and priorities – this worked really well! and we had amazing conversations in those groups, because they chose to be in that session;

*The role of the digital leader is to now go back to their school, chat with the leadership team and devise their own school based plan for engaging teachers in digital pedagogy and so on…  While we may have lots of wonderful programs that we could certainly pass to our Digital Leaders, they need to be devised by them for their teachers and within their context.  They know their clientele better than we do.

One size just doesn’t fit all – and we really need to maximise our professional learning time, so that it counts!  so that its relevant!  so that it’s effective!

Have we mastered the concept of personalised learning?  FAR FROM IT… however, we’re exploring it, and we’re modelling it and we’re articulating it with a group of leaders who will influence others…. Won’t it be wonderful when we see the transformation to student learning too.